Sadly, it was on this day 21 years ago that Payne Stewart’s chartered Learjet crashed in a field in Mina, South Dakota. The cause of the accident was the depressurization of the cabin causing all on board to become incapacitated.
Meanwhile, the jet never made a westward turn towards Dallas Love Airfield and continued north until it ran out of fuel.
The five other people aboard the aircraft included Stewart’s agents Robert Fraley and Van Ardan, pilots Michael Kling and Stephanie Bellegarrigue, and Bruce Borland, a highly regarded golf course architect with the Jack Nicklaus design company.
Stewart was on his way to the 1999 Tour Championship and had planned to stop in Dallas to visit his former alma mater to discuss a new course for SMU men’s golf program.
Aftermath and touching tributes to Payne Stewart
It was absolutely heart-ravaging for golf fans around the world to hear the news of Stewart’s death. The public had grown to love his charismatic personality and unique dressing style made him a fan favorite.
He wore his heart on his sleeve and had just won the 1999 U.S. Open in a dramatic finish against Phil Mickelson at Pinehurst. There is now a statue of Stewart celebrating his winning putt behind the 18th green of the No. 2 course at Pinehurst Resort.
In 2000 the PGA Tour established the Payne Stewart Award, given each year to a player who shows respect for the traditions of the game, commitment to uphold the game’s heritage of charitable support, and professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct.
The 2000 U.S. Open, held at Pebble Beach Golf Links, began with a golf version of a 21-gun salute when 21 of Stewart’s fellow players simultaneously hit balls into the Pacific Ocean.
Just three months prior to Stewart’s death, was the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. when his plane crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off Martha’s Vineyard.
At the time of his death, Stewart had won $12,673,193 in career earnings. He won over $2 million during the 1999 season and finished seventh on the year’s money list.